Uruguayan fans are breathing a little easier tonight after their first win of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but they might be surprised to know that it is a victory which owes a little credit to an icon from across the River Plate.
Just four minutes into the game, the South American side had taken the lead against New Zealand, which ended 2-0, thanks to a sumptuous free-kick from Giorgian De Arrascaeta. After being tumbled to the floor following a bursting run from midfield, the Defensor playmaker stood over the ball 20-yards out, just to the right of goal.
What followed was a moment of majesty, with the 19-year-old stroking the ball with his instep, sending it curling past the wall and into the top left corner of Scott Basalaj's net. When FIFA.com asked if De Arrascaeta modelled his style on anyone in particular, his reply was quick as a flash: “Riquelme.”
In fact, the creative No10 not only shares his number and free-kick technique with Juan Roman Riquelme, but models his entire game on the Argentinian star, operating in a similar attacking-midfield – volante – role. “The position is one that suits my game as it allows me to aid my team most effectively,” the Uruguayan said after the game. “I've watched a lot of Riquleme in the past and taken as many tips from his play as I can.”
While he admits aiding his team-mates with his array of neat passes and impeccable control means more than getting his name on the scoresheet, the strike itself is not a rarity for him – though this one was a little special. “I've scored many like that before, but never in a game as big as this – never for Uruguay,” he said proudly.
I've watched a lot of Riquleme in the past and taken as many tips from his play as I can.
“At Defensor I practice them all the time, as I have always enjoyed taking free-kicks and have scored ones like that before. But I am particularly happy with this one.”
While his coach Juan Verzeri was full of praise for the goal that set the tone for the game, De Arrascaeta's overall effect on the team is where he earns his coach's most fulsome words of appreciation. “The goal was very good, it came very early in the match and helped us out,” Verzeri said. “[De Arrascaeta] played very well; he's very important to the team because he has the ability to make his team-mates play better.”
The victory over New Zealand was capped off by a Nicolas Lopez goal, and it was the level of control his side exerted throughout the match that pleased De Arrascaeta most. “I feel the team played very well, we got the win, controlled the game throughout and we dominated possession,” the roving midfielder said.
However, he was quick to turn his focus to the upcoming game with Uzbekistan, a match in which Uruguay may still need a result to get through to the next round, albeit with a little pressure having been lifted.
“I think we definitely feel a bit more relaxed after getting a win, but now is the time to forget about this result and look ahead to the next game,” he said. “It will be a tough game in Antalya, but the most important thing now is to rest and prepare.”